Friday, April 6, 2012

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday April 8, 2012

(The Word lives on)
(John 20:1-18)

In the Greek, the word New Testament writers use for “resurrection” is “anastasis” (an-as-tas-is), and it is “a moral recovery of spiritual truth”. It also means, in the physical sense, “to stand up again”. In John chapter 20, verses 1-18, Matthew 28:1-10, Mark 16:1-19, and Luke 24:1-12, these authors of GOD share their respective Gospel accounts of the Resurrection of our LORD and SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST. Each author’s Resurrection account contains something unique from the other. Together, their writings regarding the events surrounding the final week of JESUS” life here on earth, collectively comprise what scholars have dubbed “The Passion Narratives” of Scripture.
The Resurrection of CHRIST is the essence of the Christian faith, and the core of all of the Apostles teachings. All accounts tell us that it was early in the morning, on the first day of the week, in fact, while it was still dark. By combining all four Gospel accounts, we can see that Mary Magdalene, the woman from whom JESUS removed seven demons (Luke 8:2), Mary, the mother of James and Joseph, Salome, who was Zebedee’s wife and the mother of James and John, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager, all went to the tomb of JESUS to anoint HIS body for burial, with spices.
Perhaps no one had ever loved JESUS as much as Mary Magdalene did. HE had done something for her that no one else could ever do, and she never forgot it. It was the custom of the Jews to visit the tomb of a loved one for three days, after the body had been laid to rest. They believed that, for three days, the spirit of the deceased person would hover around the tomb, and only departed when the decomposing body became unrecognizable. The day following JESUS’ Crucifixion was the Sabbath, which in those days was Saturday, so to visit on that day would violate the Sabbath law. That is why their first visit had to occur on that early Sunday morning.
The original Greek writings of the New Testament authors tell us, that, it was during “proi” when they visited the tomb. The Jews divided their nights into four watches. The first night watch was from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., the second watch was from 9 p.m. to 12 a.m., the third watch was from 12 a.m. to 3 a.m., and the fourth and final watch was from 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. It was during this forth watch, called “proi”, that, the women came to visit the tomb.
Tombs, in those days, were “cave-like” compartments that had been carved into the side of a hill, or mountain, and then, covered by a circular shaped rock, which rested, in a slanted groove that had been carved out along the front opening of these compartments. This extremely heavy rock had to be rolled uphill to open, and downhill to close. So we can envision that it was much harder to open than to close.
In addition, Matthew tells us that JESUS’ tomb was also sealed by Roman officials, at the request of the Jewish leaders (Matthew 27:62-66). They also placed guards out in front of the tomb. Matthew also records that there was a great earthquake associated with an angel of the LORD, who came down from Heaven and rolled away the stone from the entrance of the sepulcher, and sat on it. This apparently frightened the Roman guards so much that they fainted (Matthew 28:2-4).
When the women arrived at the tomb, they were shocked and frightened by what they saw. However, the angel was able to allay their fears and invite them to look into the cave so they could see that JESUS was no longer there. He then urged them to go and tell JESUS’ Disciples the good news that JESUS had arisen, just as HE said HE would.
The women then ran and found Peter and John, still not understanding, and thinking someone had broken into the tomb and removed JESUS’ body (John 20:2). Peter and John then run to the tomb, and with John arriving first, he looks in and sees JESUS’ body wrappings lying there in the tomb, but sees no body. Peter then arrives and actually goes into the cave, where he too, only sees the cloth that had enwrapped JESUS’ body. When Peter saw this, he remembered and realized what Scripture had said, and what JESUS had said about rising from the dead after three days, and he believed, and they went home.
John tells us in 20:11-18, that afterwards, Mary Magdalene was standing outside the tomb weeping, and as she wept, she peered inside the cave. She saw two white-robed angels, sitting at the head and foot of where JESUS’ body had lain. One of the angels asked her, why was she crying? Mary, still not understanding, replies, “Because they have taken away my LORD, and I don’t know where they have put HIM”.
Just then, she noticed someone standing behind her, that, she thought was the gardener (she didn’t recognize, at that time, that it was JESUS, probably because her eyes were filled with tears). “Sir”, she said, “If you have taken HIM away, tell me where you have put HIM”. JESUS then speaks to her, and she apparently recognizes HIS voice and runs to hug HIM. But JESUS tells her not to cling to HIM, because HE had not yet ascended to HIS FATHER. Mary then runs to find the Disciples once again, but this time, to tell them that she had seen the risen LORD.
We see throughout the “Passion Narratives” of the Bible, that this lady, Mary Magdalene, was always there in the vicinity of our LORD and SAVIOR. She was there at the foot of the cross when JESUS’ earthly life expired on that infamous Friday in world history (John 19:25). She was there when JESUS’ body was wrapped and entombed, by Joseph of Arimathea (Matthew 27:61, Mark 15:47) and Nicodemus (John 19:39-40). And she was there when the empty tomb was discovered, early that Sunday morning. And so, it was only fitting that she became the first person on earth, ever to see the “RISEN LORD”. It is a distinction that she would never have to share with anyone. What a wonderful earthly reward she had received for her unparalleled love for, and faithfulness to, the SON of the ONLY WISE GOD. And her example of undying faith in GOD is one of the great Sunday school lessons of all times. It is a lesson that every Christian should learn, and then, keep in their hearts and use as fuel, to propel them through their Christian journey, and into “Eternal Life”.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander


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